The Unborn Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Scream Factory
Directed by Rodman Flender
Written by Henry Dominic
1991, 84 minutes, Rated R
Blu-ray released on August 14th, 2018
Brooke Adams as Virginia Marshall
Jeff Hayenga as Brad Marshall
James Karen as Dr. Richard Meyerling
K Callan as Martha Wellington
Jane Cameron as Beth Sanders
Kathy Griffin as Connie Chicago
Wendy Kamenoff as Gloria Starchild
Laura Stockman as Janet Robinson
Janice Kent as Cindy DeWitt
Brad and Virginia Marshall are a loving couple who have been trying for the past five years to start a family. This has been a difficult time for them that has resulted in more than one miscarriage. When Brad’s colleague recommends a fertility doctor, they decide to give it a shot. Dr. Richard Meyerling is a miracle worker when it comes to in-vitro fertilization. He tells Virginia that her situation is tricky but not impossible and orders testing right away. His confidence is very reassuring and before long she is indeed pregnant. Everything goes smoothly until she hits her third trimester and that’s when something strange happens. Virginia has a mental breakdown and believes there is something categorically wrong with her baby. She is delusional and paranoid, convinced that Brad and the doctor are part of a greater conspiracy. The worst part of this nightmare is that Virginia may not actually be crazy. What exactly is going on and what should she do next?
The Unborn is a great entry in the “fear of babies” subgenre of horror that includes such titles as The Brood and It’s Alive. This movie owes quite a healthy debt to Roman Polanski’s classic chiller Rosemary’s Baby, but really comes to life in its final act when producer Roger Corman cuts the brakes and lets loose. This is an exploitation picture dressed up as a family drama that goes batshit crazy in the final 15 minutes. The big reveal that ends most movies is simply a jumping-off point here. Director Rodman Flender (Idle Hands) knows how to handle this material and in the first hour holds back enough to allow the tension to build and the ensuing craziness to really excel. Written by John Brancato and Michael Ferris, both credited here under the pseudonym “Henry Dominic”, the script does a fine job lulling the audience into a false sense of security before pulling out all the stops. The duo went on to write a wide range of material, including Terminator 3 & 4. The movie’s pedigree continues with early work for Christopher Nolan’s longtime cinematographer Wally Pfister (The Dark Knight) and a score composed by popular musician Gary Numan.
Brooke Adams (The Dead Zone) stars as Virginia Marshall, the expectant mother. She shines in the role and brings to life all of the uncertainty and scariness of having something growing inside you. She remains sympathetic even as she has a gigantic meltdown later in the picture. Jeff Hayenga (Other People’s Money) co-stars as Virginia’s husband Brad, a man trying his best to keep his wife happy and calm. Unfortunately, the character goes on a business trip and is missing through most of the second act. I understand that Virginia needs to be isolated to allow her uncertainty to play on her fears, but I missed Brad. The always-welcome James Karen (Return of the Living Dead) plays Dr. Meyerling in such a way that you can’t tell if he is genuinely helpful or secretly diabolical. He is terrific in the part and is a real highlight every time he appears on screen. The Unborn features an early role for comedienne Kathy Griffin as a lesbian Lamaze coach and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance from Lisa Kudrow (Friends) as the receptionist at the clinic.
The Unborn was a modest success upon release and gave birth to a sequel, The Unborn 2 in 1994. Roger Corman exploitation pictures are often spawned on the edges of societal fears and here tackles the perceived threat of genetically-assisted fertility clinics. Once the film hits the final act and lets loose, it becomes more of a traditional drive-in movie and has a lot of fun with the possibilities. The leap is relatively organic and feels like part of the same story, but viewers will undoubtedly be in for a wild ride they could never predict coming. This is not a great movie by any means, but it is a satisfying one that is well worth checking out.
Video and Audio:
Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio and featuring an all-new 2K High-Definition transfer from original film elements, The Unborn looks terrific and is a real step up from the earlier DVD release. Grain is a little heavy at times, but this appears to be native from the source. Colors and black levels are well-balanced and rich with plenty of small-object detail and flesh tones appear natural throughout.
A DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio track is simple and effective without getting too aggressive. The first two thirds of this picture are dialogue-driven, but there is a fair amount of bass in the final act. Everything is clean and free from distortion.
Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.
The disc comes with an audio commentary with director Rodman Flender joined by friend and fellow Corman filmmaker Adam Simon. Their discussion is conversational and laid back, but moves at a steady pace. There is a lot of fun information here with tales of Roger Corman, Wally Pfister and Gary Newman to name but a few.
The original theatrical trailer is included.
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